Syracuse vs. Villanova Prediction: Expecting Points From Nova in Jimmy V Classic

Syracuse vs. Villanova prediction and pick for Tuesday's matchup between the two teams. Mike Spector previews the game and gives his pick
Mike Spector |
Tue, December 7, 9:02 AM EST | 4 min read
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Syracuse vs. Villanova Prediction: Expecting Points From Nova in Jimmy V Classic

Syracuse Orange vs. Villanova Wildcats

Spread: Villanova -7.5

Total: 144.5

Game time: Tuesday, 9:00 p.m. ET

Where to Watch: ESPN

Syracuse vs. Villanova odds

Syracuse vs. Villanova Prediction

The Jimmy V Classic is one of college basketball's most premier early-season events. This year's headliner of the doubleheader is a battle of old Big East rivals, as the Villanova Wildcats meet the Syracuse Orange. These two teams met annually beginning in 1979, but this is their first meeting since 2014-15. The Wildcats search for their first winning streak in this series since winning three straight from 2007-2009. Will they get it, or can Syracuse pull the upset at Madison Square Garden, their so-called "home away from home?"

Syracuse has struggled to a 5-3 start this season but comes into this game off the momentum of two solid victories. The Orange beat Indiana and Florida State by a combined five points in back-to-back games, which followed a rough stretch where they lost three of four games. In addition, Jim Boeheim's vaunted 2-3 zone defense had some leaks in it, as Syracuse allowed at least 84 points in four of their last six games. However, their 63-60 win over Florida State on Saturday was arguably their best defensive performance of the season, as the zone held the Seminoles to 4-for-30 (13.3%) from 3-point range.

Villanova has spent their last three games dominating the Philadelphia Big 5 city rivalry. The Wildcats beat La Salle, UPenn, and Saint Joseph's by an average of 23.3 PPG, and Villanova's lone two losses remain against UCLA and Purdue, two top-five opponents. The Wildcats' 29-point victory over St. Joe's was especially impressive considering they were playing short-handed as several of their players caught a non-COVID-19 related illness earlier in the week. Regardless, Jay Wright extended his bench a little longer with such a big lead, and no Wildcats player played more than 31 minutes in the lopsided victory.

Syracuse's advantage over most non-conference opponents is that their long 2-3 zone is difficult to prepare for when you do not see it often. That will not be an issue for Wright, who is plenty familiar with Boeheim's tendencies. On paper, this is a nightmare matchup for Syracuse, as not many teams in the country have four players on the floor that can shoot from deep as effectively as Villanova can. All five Villanova starters are shooting better than 37% behind the arc, and four of the five are connecting on at least 40% of their shots from deep. Thus, it is unlikely the Wildcats oblige the Orange zone by shooting 13% from deep as Florida State did.

Villanova ranks fourth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency and seventh in the country in three-point shooting percentage at 42.2%, per KenPom. In addition, they have turned the ball over on just 13% of their possessions (eighth-best in the country), and that will be even less of an issue against a Syracuse zone predicated on preventing dribble penetration more than having active hands in the passing lanes.

Of all the angles in this game, the safest is betting Villanova's team total. The Wildcats had three more days to get healthy before this matchup, which likely means Caleb Daniels (9.4 PPG) will suit up tonight. Syracuse will not mind pushing the pace in this game in an attempt to wear down Villanova late as UCLA and Purdue did. However, Boeheim's zone is not covering as much ground as his zones in the past have, and the Wildcats are ripe for picking it apart.

In addition, if Villanova is leading late, Boeheim typically extends pressure early and tries to play at a frantic pace. The Wildcats have not scored fewer than 71 points all season, and the Orange zone plays right into their team strengths. Look for Villanova to pick it apart.

Syracuse vs. Villanova Pick

Mike Spector
@MikeSpector01

Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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